New rankings put California 41st nationwide in the well-being of children, the same lowly spot it got last year.
To gauge how children were doing in different states, the private Annie E. Casey Foundation eyed data including poverty levels, graduation rates and teen births in its annual Kids Count report.
The highest-ranking states were New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts; the lowest were Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico.
For the first time in the 24 years that the report has been produced, Mississippi did not rank last, the foundation said. The state edged out New Mexico on a few measures used to calculate the rankings, including children attending preschool.
The annual report also reported for the first time on the welfare of multiracial children. Recently released census bureau estimates have shown that people of multiple races were the fastest growing of any racial group in the United States. The foundation said its report showed multiracial children were largely doing as well or better as the general population.
The group found that although California had improved in many ways, such as reducing the share of children without health insurance, it still measured poorly compared with the rest of the country.
For instance, 52% of California children live in a household that devoted nearly a third or more of its income to housing costs, compared with 40% of children nationwide. Three out of four eighth-graders did not measure “proficient” in math on a national exam; the national average was two out of three.
Children Now, a California advocacy group that partnered with the foundation on the report, said the new rankings revealed that California leaders neglected “fundamental issues.”
“Why kids aren’t getting the level of attention they need and deserve is largely a function of their lack of power and influence relative to other interest groups,” California Now President Ted Lempert said in a news release.
Nationally, the Annie E. Casey Foundation praised some signs of improvement, such as the dropping rate of teenagers giving birth, which hit a historic low in 2011.
However, it said the toll of the recession was still apparent, with child poverty at higher rates in 2011 than in 2005. More recent shifts in the economy are not reflected because the data used was two years old.The data used to create the report were drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources. State rankings and more detailed data are available on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website.